Add a Review

  • The Gentle Touch has been all but forgotten in the ephemeral world of television, despite being a serious ratings grabber in its day, a Friday night essential with one of the best theme tunes ever to grace a television series. Yet far from being another straightforward cops and robbers series with a leading lady to make it different, The Gentle Touch was an altogether more complex animal. Occasionally banal, often disturbing and frequently brilliant, this was one of the last great examples of television that was controlled by the scripts. Jill Gascoine made a strong central figure, with a perfect mix of feminine allure and compassion, but a convincingly tough manner that she pulled off far more successfully than most. There were no scenes of her effortlessly arresting six foot thugs...this was the real world, where women police officers are treated with as much derision as males. One of the real bonuses was the casting of William Marlowe as Maggie's boss, Bill Russell. Marlowe's fabulous performance is every inch the seen-it-all, fast talking, unromantic and jaded police officer, and the ensemble playing of the other regulars is a delight. Derek Thompson is a good deal more animated here than he was to be in Casualty, and Brian Gwaspari's repulsive Bob Croft showed a mix of sexism, racism and homophobia that gradually became tempered by a respect for Maggie and a few hard learnt lessons.

    All this is second fiddle to the main thrust of The Gentle Touch, which is that a good few years before the Bill was doing "issue of the week" storylines, Maggie's team were regularly wandering into Play For Today scenarios of occasionally shocking bleakness, where there were often no true villains and victims, with everyone a mixture of both. Fine examples include P.J. Hammond's brilliant "Damage", with a tremendous performance by Robert Longden as a manic depressive abandoned by his wife to bring up his child alone and the victim of a neighbourhood hate campaign. Hammond's "Solution" was equally affecting, dealing with euthanasia. "Gifts" was a simple and effective reversal of the usual expectations of the crime drama, whilst "Doubt" has to be Jill Gascoine's finest performance, a chilling tale of Maggie suddenly falling foul to a mugging and wondering if she can really cope with 80s Britain from a policewoman's point of view. She delivers a superb monologue to her son Steve (a nice turn by Nigel Rathbone) that is almost a summary of The Gentle Touch's attitudes to law and order. This is 1980, punks and skinheads are becoming a recognised threat in Britain, race riots are making the news. Does anyone appreciate the job they do any more? "Blade" dealt bravely with homosexuality, whilst "Scapegoat" was an extraordinarily daring examination of anti-semitism.

    Definitely a contender for finest episode is "Pressures" with William Marlowe pushing tension to the limits in his rivetting performance, as Russell suffers the early stages of a nervous breakdown. A particularly moving ending leaves quite an impression.

    The Gentle Touch did have its down side, especially a rather shoddy final season with less agitation in the scripts and some very hit and miss plots, with the exception of the tense supernatural episode "Cure". The final episode ended proceedings with a whimper rather than a bang. For those who remember it however, The Gentle Touch was marvellous television, the Seven Dials setting perfectly captured in the sensual, dark theme music, and sense of compassion and suffering expertly depicted in the writing and acting.
  • davebah28 November 2008
    The previous review of this show by "Simon from London", (itself now nearly a decade ago!) pretty much sums up all that needs to be said about this fine series, so all I will add is please release it on DVD - the whole thing! No question there are enough of us out here who remember this superb quality show, made when quality was still a relevant word. Forget "Cagney & Lacey" which came out in the US around the time that the "Gentle Touch" ended, this show had it all. Gritty stories, well acted that kept you hooked in right to the end. I recently purchased the entire 18 disc box set of "The Sweeney" and could think of no better companion piece than a similar set of "The Gentle Touch"
  • I reviewed this series a month ago but have now managed to watch all 56 episodes of the series.

    I have not too much to add to my previous comments. The series is better than I remember it being.

    It was made in 1980-1985 but I remember a lot of the episodes although I don't think it has been repeated much.

    As I said previously people go on about The Sweeney and Prime Suspect but this series was regarded as being tough and realistic when first shown and it tries to be but sometimes fails.

    This series was based on the idea of a policewomen in a senior position. American tv had had Policewomen with Angie Dickinson,6 years after The Gentle Touch people got excited about Prime Suspect but it never seemed that realistic to me.

    But as much as I am praising The Gentle Touch it had run out of steam by the last series. There were some good episodes in all the series but there were some really silly ones as well.

    If you look at the wikipedia entry for this series please don't believe the statement there that this series was the product of conservative government propaganda.

    It is true that some of the episodes focus on changing society and the challenge faced by the police. I was 20 in 1980 and politics apart society was changing a lot in the 1980s,wanting a more stable law respecting society does not make some a conservative. Indeed there are several episodes where characters talk about the problems of mass unemployment and racism and sexism.
  • Simon from London summed it up well in his 2000 review...

    The first series' theme song sounded like the opening to 'A Touch Of Frost' and the second series intro theme sounded like 'The Sweeney'! From the third series on, they settled for scene intros.

    As popular as this was back in the early eighties, the evolution of TV has exposed its flaws. Jill Gascoine frequently drifts in and out of a terrible cockney accent, the 'crim-speak' ("E's got a shooter, guv?") is straight out of a comic book and the dramatic dialog is very wordy and borders on pretentious and preachy... but back then we were easily fooled and it's unfair to base a very old drama based on precepts and expectations of today.

    There's a lot of nostalgic value to be had by watching the re-runs. Britain was going through a seismic social and cultural update and many episodes reflect these changes well. The interesting thing about this series (which probably kept it afloat long past it's 'sell-by date') was the diversity of the topics it covered. Although the central players remained the same, the 'song' didn't. Each week would toss out a surprise of its own.

    William Marlowe and the other actors were a treat to watch, as they managed to play it straight-faced despite some bizarre lines they had to mete out.

    Interestingly, the BBC came out with an almost identical police procedural featuring a lead woman detective which ran for the same amount of time: Juliet Bravo. The BBC version had a better theme song, better graphics and even better guest actors... Inspector Jean Darblay, though, was a business-like copper rather than the flawed and much more interesting Det. Insp. Maggie Forbes.

    Nonetheless, it was still the same dreary and depressing view of the 1980s! There's not much to choose between the two. Check them out on YouTube!
  • The complete dvd boxed set of this is out this month Sept 2018. Just watching,it is addictive.

    I had enjoyed this series on tv in the early 1980s.

    As another reviewer said this is an underrated drama which covers social issues and trends from 1980s Britain.

    People go on about The Sweeney for example but this series is just as 1980s as The Sweeney was 1970s.

    But often this is better than the Sweeney because it is better written and better acted and is more realistic I think.

    In the first couple of episodes we see police officers ranting about society's changing views of the police.

    People write books about The Sweeney and they study it at university but I hope they study this and The Bill as well.
  • As of June 8th, Talking Pictures (Ch 81 Freeview) have been running 'The Gentle Touch' from the very start, one episode a week, at 10pm every Monday. I know they've run the whole series on at least two occasions before but that was even later in the evening and was every weekday. This time, we can watch it on a weekly basis, at a reasonable time, as it was originally shown in the early 1980s.

    The first thing to notice with the inaugural series is that the opening credits were different and the music was slower, somewhat more eerie, almost despairing. A shorter series than the following four, it did a good job of introducing us to the main protagonist, Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes, played by the late Jill Gascoine. And was it coincidence that a year after we elected our first female Prime Minister in the UK, the lead character in 'The Gentle Touch' was called Maggie? Did that give her toughness more authenticity in the eyes of the British public?

    You have to remember that Jill Gascoine was in the vanguard for TV actresses as no other cop show had had a female lead. In fact, I don't think many TV shows had had a female lead. Remember, this was prime time Friday night TV when there were only three channels to watch. Viewing figures would have been very high and people would have been talking about it in the pubs the next night. There would have been a great deal of pressure on her to pull it off, and to say she handled it with aplomb is a colossal understatement.

    The first series begins by pulling no punches when Maggie Forbes' husband, disgruntled with life in the force, is gunned down during a robbery half way through the first episode. You're expecting him to be a main cast member but his cruel sacrifice then allows the show to tackle issues such as single parenthood or frees up Maggie for some romantic interludes, one of which takes place in the weakest episode of the series, Rogue.

    My take on The Gentle Touch, Series 1, is that it was well written and appeared to give a true to life depiction of police work. Slower and more thought provoking than 'The Sweeney', the title 'The Gentle Touch' belied the fact that it could be a tough cop drama and Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes was no shrinking violet when it came to expressing her opinion, especially with her arrogant, chauvinistic, Detective Inspector colleague Bob Croft (Brian Gwaspari), who she clearly dislikes from the off.

    I don't recollect a whole lot of accompanying music throughout the show, giving a more realistic touch in my opinion. This is aided with occasional insights into Maggie's home life with her son and her father.

    Also good to see future Casualty star Derek Thompson as Detective Sergeant Jimmy Fenton, playing him a bit cocky and with a proclivity for winding up potential suspects. William Marlowe's authoritative Detective Chief Inspector Russell pops up occasionally in this series, but we will see far more of him in later series.

    It's also hard not to notice how the show strongly highlights the then prevalent attitudes in British society towards race, gender and sexuality. It is amazing to think that this was prime time TV and how far we have come in the last four decades.

    It's always interesting as well, when watching old shows, to see other familiar faces pop up. Some who were known at the time and some who were yet to become famous, there's a few here.

    Overall, an enjoyable return to 1980s British television and I look forward to the rerun of the second series starting tomorrow (27th July 2020).

    RIP Jill Gascoine
  • D.I. Maggie Forbes played by Gill Gascoigne and some familiar faces that have graced our screens for over 30 years. I forgot how good this program is! I haven't seen it since the series since it first aired & I have been currently watching series 1 on Talking Pictures TV channel on cable. It makes a nice change from watching the reruns of the sweeney on ITV4! 😉
  • (See my review for the first series). The show is currently running every Monday night, 10pm, on the UK's Talking Pictures (Freeview Channel 81).

    Back in 1980, the second series started airing less than four months after the first finished, probably to capitalise on its success and to not allow the BBC's Juliet Bravo to take all the limelight. Anybody who was worried that they were rushing the next series out would most likely have been relieved that it was better than the first, fleshing out the characters a little more, particularly our heroine Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes.

    I can say that Jill Gascoine's portrayal of the embattled Detective Inspector is truly exceptional and although I was quite young at the time, I'm sure she didn't get the recognition she deserved. The pressure on her must have been immense and yet it doesn't show one bit. She manages to find a perfect portrayal of a woman doing a hard job in tough conditions whilst also showing her to be a mother and a human being. Some of this was down to the quality of writing and the excellent support she got from the cast, but plaudits must go to the late Jill Gascoine.

    Regarding the second series, I'm pleased to say we see the more memorable opening credits with the faster music that the first series missed out on. Perhaps there is a little more polish to the second series, the writers and the cast feeling more confident and comfortable in their work. The stories are interesting and keep you hooked from start to finish, bearing in mind that these episodes are an hour long with two short advert breaks. If my attention wanders, it's brief, and I'm often engrossed until the final credits start running, leaving me looking forward to the next week.

    The second series strikes a good balance between presenting Maggie at work and in her private life, although the two are often linked. It does a good job of showing the human side of our leading lady, plus some interesting but minor development of other major characters. For instance, it's becoming clear that the chill between Maggie and Detective Inspector Bob Croft is thawing as well as the fact that her teenage son is doing some growing up.

    It goes without saying that some episodes are stronger than others with my personal favourites being 'Something Blue', 'Decoy', 'Menaces', 'Chance' and 'Shame', with the episode 'Hammer' being the one that didn't click for me. Always interesting as well, as you often get when watching old TV shows, is seeing the familiar faces popping up in roles, quite often before they were famous. The second series has more than its fair share of these.

    That's now seventeen Mondays on the trot that I have tuned in at 10pm and my desire to continue watching 'The Gentle Touch' is still unabated. I hope to watch all 56 episodes on this one a week basis and I'm finding it thoroughly enjoyable.

    Series 3 will start at 10pm on Monday (5th October 2020), Freeview, Ch81 Talking Pictures. It's not too late to start following the show. There are still 39 episodes to come.

    Series 1 - 8/10 Series 2 - 9/10